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What To Do with Pandemic Hair

By Andrea Douglas
Pandemic Hair

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Published Date

September 15, 2021
What To Do with Pandemic Hair
Pandemic Hair
April Summers

By April Summers

A New Paradigm for Your Tresses

A lot has happened since early 2020, and most of us saw changes in our lifestyles, some uncomfortable, and others preferable, although it might have taken us a minute to get used to them.

If you had a particular hairstyle before the pandemic, you might have had difficulty keeping your cut how you like it, having it set every week, shaving it, waxing or plucking it, or getting the color just right.

Some of you learned to work with a new hair length, figured out how to color it yourself, or found a trusted family member to arrange it for your online wedding.

You may have found a new stylist you like even better or celebrated when your longtime favorite expert opened shop again.

So many hair scenarios occurred in the past two years that we've put together a New Hair Guide.

You don't have to download it or sign up for an email list.

It's right here.

The research shows that this product also:

Your New Style

Changing your look can feel weird, even if it evolves or results from a dearth of choices.

But opting for a new style can be fun and rewarding.

Researching fashion trends, colors, cuts, and styling tips and tricks might be daunting at first, like looking for a new home, but once you get started, it's fun to explore all the possibilities.

When you decide on something intriguing, it's helpful to ask around for suggestions from friends, professionals, and of course, the internet for advice and opinions.

Your hair type, face shape, and skin color can impact your new look, so there might be some adjustments to make after your initial decision.

Changing the way you cut, wash, or style your hair can take some getting used to.

Be prepared to build a new habit for maintenance and communicate any problems with your hairstylist, who can inspire you or troubleshoot challenges (1).

Letting It Go

Okay, so some of us let our hair go in 2020.

Why jump in the shower and subject ourselves to the time-consuming, sweaty, daily routine of drying and curling our locks when we're just going to be in our jammies all day?

Some of us lost our jobs or switched to new ones and found ourselves with a whole new morning self-care groove (or lack of one).

You may wash and fix your hair more than or less often than you did in the past.

People have even tried the "No Poo" method of not using shampoo at all, only rinsing, using baking soda, or conditioning their hair. (This was a thing before the pandemic).

So, what happens to your hair when you stop washing it?

Many things.

The first thing that happens is that you stop stripping your hair follicles of their natural oils, helping to lubricate and strengthen the cuticle layer.

And that's considered a good thing (2).

Unfortunately, unpleasant things also occur to unwashed hair.

The following is a brief list of results you might have encountered if you did wash your hair less often or that you potentially will notice if you adopt the "no poo" idea.

Pain – The scalp becomes tender, possibly due to yeast and bacteria build-up leading to inflammation.

Washing your hair involves a regular scalp massage to keep the hair follicles free of debris and not clogged (3).

A fungus called Malassezia furfur could even be the culprit, rearing its ugly heads when we put our hair in buns and ponytails to hide the grease (4).

Itching and Tingling – You might notice yourself messing around with your hair, picking at your scalp, or running your fingers through your tresses.

This behavior becomes a vicious cycle of the "chicken or the egg" model.

It might start with too much product or sweat from a workout not followed by a shower.

Your scalp tingles, tickles, or itches, so you reach up and add some oil from your fingers to the mix, and the madness begins (5).

Clumps – Dirt and grease from oil glands in the scalp hold hair strands in small bunches in the absence of a good scrubbing with some suds.

Thick hair can lead to a chunky texture, and thin, fine hair becomes heavy and limp.

Neither type of hair becomes lustrous and appealing when clumped together.

Tangles – As dirty hair strands glide past each other, the shafts' outer layers don't.

They snag each other and tear, causing snarls and hang-ups mixed with debris left by hair products, scalp oils, and environmental grime.

Dandruff – Ditching shampoo might temporarily balance your oil gland production and secretion, but yeast that naturally grows on scalps will create itchy dryness resulting in scalp inflammation and flaking (6).

Scalp acne – Since the oils aren't isolated by the surfactants in shampoo and removed, there will be a temporary increase in oil, which might produce breakouts of pimples.

You might not be able to see them but feeling them is icky (7).

The moral of the story is, wash your hair, even if you work from home.

Nutritional Patterns

Have you heard of the "Pandemic Ten?"

It might be that you maintained your weight during the past two years, but many of us gained or lost at least ten or twenty pounds.

Some of us stayed and ate at home more; others became fans of Door Dash, and many people had cereal for dinner followed by cookies and ice cream at midnight.

Did you know that a healthy mane of hair depends on essential nutrition? (8)

Genetics plays the most predominant role in the type, thickness, color, and curl of your hair, but the scalp and follicles depend on nutrients to fulfill their natural disposition (9).

Hormones dictate a lot that happens with our hair, and as they wax and wane, whether dramatically or gradually, we might notice our locks doing things like changing color, fading, curling more, or falling out! (10)

Even as we gained weight during the pandemic, we often failed to nourish our bodies, and though a few of us lost weight, it probably wasn't the "easy way" (intentionally).

Our hair may have taken a hit from other factors, too:

  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions
  • Heavy metals
  • Smoking (11).

Nutritional deficits impact hair structure from the get-go and affect growth for years.

Your intake of nutrients is even more critical for your hair health than what shampoos and conditioners make it to your shower (12).

Some conditions that result from a poor diet include:

  • Acute telogen effluvium – sudden decrease in protein intake
  • Alopecia –niacin deficiency (13)
  • Color fading – poor protein intake
  • Dry scalp – low iron, B12, omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamins A and C
  • Hair shedding – zinc deficiency
  • Brittle hair – lack of biotin
  • Slow or no hair growth – calcium deficiency (14).

Here are the principal nutrients required to produce healthy baby hairs and keep strands growing in anagen (growth) phase as long as possible.

  • Protein
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Biotin (vitamin B7 or vitamin H)
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1, B2, B5, folate, and B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Amino acids - L-Methionine, L-Cysteine, and L-Lysine, L-Taurine, and Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (15).

That's a lot of nutrients to keep track of.

Here is an easier list of foods that will ensure delivery of everything you need for healthy hair:

  • Salmon - omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B-12, and iron.
  • Dark Green Vegetables – vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium
  • Beans - Legumes (beans and lentils) – protein, iron, zinc, and biotin.
  • Nuts – selenium, zinc, and alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid
  • Poultry - protein and iron
  • Eggs - protein, biotin, and vitamin B-12
  • Whole Grains – zinc, iron, and B vitamins
  • Oysters – zinc
  • Dairy Products – calcium
  • Carrots - vitamin A.
  • Complex carbohydrates - convert protein into hair cells (16).

Exercise Habits

During the pandemic, gyms closed for a while and many of us altered our fitness programs.

We took long walks or bike rides with family, followed yoga practices online, or ditched the workouts altogether.

One essential factor in having healthy hair is getting adequate physical activity to promote the circulation of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the follicles (17).

The following are exercises specifically recommended to affect your hair health because of targeted anatomical and physiological functions:

Jogging - opens pores in your scalp to flush out toxins harmful to the hair.

Cardio - increases circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the scalp for healthy growth.

Scalp massage - increases blood flow to the scalp, circulation to follicles, and hair growth.

Neck exercise - stimulates hair growth by releasing any trapped tension in surrounding muscles.

Acupuncture - effective in reducing hair loss. Finger pressure points encourage healthy hair growth.

Head or tripod stand - boosts hair growth.

Acupressure - to fingertips and nails revitalizes hair follicles, improves blood circulation to the scalp, stimulates hormones that promote hair growth and darkening, alleviates dandruff and premature greying.

Breathing exercises - Kapalbhati pranayama oxygenates the scalp to rejuvenate damaged hair, stimulate new hair growth, and prevent hair loss.

Leg lifts - regulate the working of the thyroid gland and improves scalp circulation to decrease hair fall and baldness due to hormonal imbalance.

Enterprising Hair Ownership

Despite salons closing their doors for months, many hair owners figured out how to keep stylin'.

You learned to fix your own hair, which resulted in beautiful new cuts, styles, colors, and shaves.

Some results of do-it-yourself haircuts took the shapes of mullets, bobs, and shaved heads (18).

In addition, many of you flocked back to your favorite stylists with ideas for a new phase of your life, including hair transformation adventures.

Trends in salons in 2021 include bangs, layers, shags.

The important thing is to enjoy your stint into the novel experience and love yourself no matter how differently your hair frames your face.

The new styles this year:

Curly shag - loving the curls, whether short or long with or without bangs.

Mullet – framing and highlighting the face.

Face-framing layers – a new look without changing your hair length.

Undercut – not one to try at home; thin or thick hair works.

Curtain bangs – low-maintenance cheekbone accentuating.

Blunt ends – polished look flattering for all face shapes and hair types.

Big chop – letting it all go for either a pixie or a tapered look.

Short, swoopy bob – textured and bouncy with a blunt bottom

Asymmetrical bob - shorter in the back and longer in the front or longer on one side than the other.

The New Pixie – a classic with many variations, modern, fresh, highlights the eyes.

Modern shag - a ton of layers create texture for a cool, lived-in look.

Rounded 'fro – curls and coils, naturally grown or trimmed and shaped into the roundest form possible

Chin-length – flipped up or under, exposing the neck and collarbone, straight and sharp or tousled, textured, and playful.

Heatless texture - let your hair air-dry 90 percent, then spritz in some texturizing spray and roll it into a bun. When you let it down, you'll have naturally messy waves; no curling iron needed.

One length - a super simple cut for a bold statement, easy no-style ponytail.

Buzz cut – cool-looking style with no maintenance headache.

Long bangs - sexy and spicy after long months in quarantine (19).